Interview: Wolf Hoffmann of Accept
Later this month Accept makes their triumphant return with a new singer, a new album, and a new US tour in support of it. Their new album, Blood of The Nations will introduce their legion of fans to their new vocalist – Mark Tornillio. Our resident 80s guy recently caught up with guitarist Wolf Hoffmann to discuss it all.
Interviewed by: Roger Scales
Let’s talk about the new Accept album Blood of the Nations to be released here in the US on September 19th. Since it’s been almost 14 years since the last record (Predator 1996) does it feel like a new beginning for the band?
Totally man, it feels like we’re starting from scratch. It feels like we’re all 25 again. The guys are so excited about all this and it definitely has the feel of a new chapter in our history.
Was the majority of the writing for Blood of the Nations done after deciding to reunite or was the material left over from past sessions?
It was all brand new stuff. It was all written after we made up our minds that we were going to this. Nothing was used that was left over from previous sessions.
What was it like working with Andy Sneap as a producer? Do you think that he brought his own element and style to Blood of the Nations?
Yes I think that in the way that he works, that special gift that he has to nudge things along in the studio. He was pretty involved early on in the song selection and he was very instrumental in helping us find “the sound” that we were looking for and I think we achieved with this project. We were so happy to have him on board for Blood of the Nations because we knew that was a fan first and then by adding in that he is a world class producer. Boy that’s a great combination to have. He knew what our core audience would expect because he was one of them as a teenager and still is today. He brought that aspect/perspective to this project front and center and it remained there to the very last day of mixing.
Mark Tornillo is making his vocal debut on Blood of the Nations. Were you searching for a replacement for your original vocalist (Udo Dirkschneider) or was finding Mark what actually catapulted the reformation of Accept?
We were never really looking for somebody we just happened to meet Mark by chance. After hearing him perform, Peter (Baltes) and I asked him to jam with us and after that session we just knew that he was going to be the guy. We knew that had somebody very special. We didn’t consider anybody else because we were not in active pursuit of anybody else! We had contacted Udo first before moving on to record this album but he was content in staying a solo act and decided not to return to the band so he was out. He would have been out first priority (having as much of the original lineup back together as possible) had he been at all interested in returning but that was not the case.
How difficult is it for a band to replace a lead vocalist? Do you run the risk of alienating your hardcore fan base by doing so?
Totally..it’s a gamble for sure. In the end I really think it comes done to a simple fact: do you have somebody else to step in? If you have something convincing to offer the fans it can be done. I think we are living proof that it can be done with Blood of the Nations. I think this will be one of the few times in rock n roll history that it’s going to work. It’s really difficult it switch lead singers because the vocals are so much of the identity of the band. Our band in particular (even going back to the early days of Accept) Peter, Stefan (Schwarzmann) and I did all of the work behind the scenes. We wrote the songs and contributed to the production of the final mix of the album and spent countless hrs in the studio trying to take the band to that next level. Udo was more of the performer and added so much to what became our reputation as a legendary live act. It was really great this time around to have Mark in from the get go of writing and recording Blood of the Nations and was much more involved stylistically in the studio than Udo ever was.
Accept has been touring since May (your first show with Mark at the Nokia Theater in NYC) and have been touring during the summer throughout Europe on some very big stages playing to thousands of fans even supporting AC/DC on a couple of dates. How has the new material off Blood of the Nations being played live for the first time been received by the hardcore Accept fan base?
They love it! It goes hand in hand with the old stuff which is quite remarkable considering the fact that they are new songs. The fans wanted good old fashioned heavy metal songs that just naturally fit Accept and that goes a long way in creating the buzz that is out and the positive feedback we have gotten everywhere we have performed this summer.
The upcoming fall US tour will also feature Kings X on the bill. Have you ever toured with them in the past and do you think (as I do) that fans of each band will appreciate more what the other band brings to the table especially where you both play very different styles?
We have never toured with them before but we are all looking forward to them because we love the band and that they are top notch players that write fantastic songs so it should be a killer show!! It should a be a great experience for everybody involved..but the fans will be the ultimate winners.
You have scheduled a cd signing meet/greet at Vintage Vinyl in Fords NJ on Sept 26 the day after your show at the Starland Ballroom. Do you plan on adding additional meet/greets throughout the remainder of the tour and how important is to reconnect with the fans having been gone for as long as you have?
We have been away for so long that we did the same thing in Europe all summer. We really knew it was important to connect with the fans again by coming out after our set and shaking hands and speaking with them. We want the fans to know that HEY we are back and we mean business and thanks for staying loyal for all these years. We do plan on doing this throughout the US tour.
You filmed a video for the first single “Teutonic Terror” and I thought it had a very old school feel to it. No real storyline attached but it stuck to a straight ahead band performance based no nonsense approach. Do you envision more bands returning to this type of medium with the advent of YouTube and other additional metal video outlets?
I don’t know about other bands but I can tell you that it worked for us! We were tossing around different ideas in what to do for the video and there were several suggestions made including a “boy meets girl” scenario but we tossed all of that aside and kept it simple because we knew the fans just want to see us rock out! I think we were right because (so far) the fans have all mentioned to us that they just love it. It will be interesting to see if more bands start to return to this format. I sure hope so because I know that’s what I would want to see.
How big a challenge is it picking a set list at this point in your career? On these headlining shows in the US can the fans expect to get a good dose of BOTN plus older maybe more obscure material?
Absolutely. We have so much material to pick from its no longer fun (wanting to please everybody all of the time it’s just not possible) but in some ways it’s a good problem to have. We are going to back to the early days of Accept on this leg including playing some lesser known songs (some never performed live) plus the hits. Mark is a very spontaneous sort of guy and likes to shake up the set from night to night. We will be able to have that flexibility this time around by changing the order and dropping and adding songs from night to night. We realize that some of the fans will see shows in multiple cities on multiple nights. We want to be able to give them something that maybe they didn’t hear on night #1 that they really wanted to and will hear on night #2. It makes it fun for the rest of the band as well as the set does not become stale from night to night.
Accept fans may or may not be aware that you have a budding 2nd career as a professional photographer (www.wolfhoffmann.com). In fact you took the photo that became the cover for the 1993 Accept album Objection Overruled. Was it simply a situation where it was a hobby that became a 2nd source of income?
Yes. It all started as a hobby when I was on the road with Accept. Back in the 80’s I took my camera wherever we went documented our travels, sightseeing etc. During Accept’s hiatus it became my sole source of income and still remains a very active part of my life.
Are all of current members of Accept based in North America or Europe or both?
We are really all over the place now. I’m in Nashville, TN. Peter is currently living in Philadelphia, PA. Mark is in NJ. Stefan our drummer is in Switzerland and Herman “the German” Frank is the sole member still living in our homeland of Germany. We are truly an international act now!
Do you have a favorite US tour or show from the 80’s that stands out from the rest?
One night in particular that stands out was the tail end of the Lick it Up Tour in March (9and10) 1984 we opened for KISS at Radio City Music Hall and then drove to LaMours in Brooklyn and played a headlining show in the same night!! Several Accept fans showed for both gigs and we waited as long as we could so KISS could complete their set. It was one of the few times in our history that we played two shows in the same night.
Does the band have expectations at this point in your career or are you just satisfied to back “along for the ride” and enjoying this wave of success and reviews that you have had thus far in 2010 supporting BOTN?
We are just taking everything as it comes our way. We have been around long enough to realize that you just have to be prepared for anything really. All you can do is put your best foot forward and make the best album you can make and put it out and let the chips fall where they may. Go with the flow mentality for all of us now. We are all hoping for the best but we don’t have any exact benchmarks that we need to reach in order to deem it successful. Accept has always been a household name in the metal community and it’s been real nice to me able to be gone as long as we have and just fit right in like we never left.
Do have a special message for the US fans as you prepare to hit the road this fall in support of BOTN?
We can’t to get back playing for our fans in what will amount to be a celebration of Accept both then and now. It’s been much too long since we played here and we realize that we must not wait this long ever again. See ya on the road!!
Accept Tour Dates:
9/9/2010 Atlanta GA Center Stage – Headlining the ProgPower USA Kick-Off
9/23/2010 Poughkeepsie NY The Chance
9/24/2010 Baltimore MD Ram’s Head Live
9/25/2010 Sayreville NJ The Starland Ballroom
9/27/2010 New York City NY B. B. King’s
9/29/2010 Foxboro MA Showcase Live
10/1/2010 Reading PA The Silo
10/2/2010 Mt. Clemens, MI The Emerald Theatre
10/6/2010 Middleton (Madison), WI Scatz
10/8/2010 Cleveland OH The Agora Ballroom
10/9/2010 St Charles (Chicago), IL The Arcada Theatre
10/12/2010 Dallas TX House Of Blues
10/13/2010 Houston TX House Of Blues